Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On my mark, set...

I can't believe it's here. One day in April I had a rare few minutes of down time at the office. I navigated to, as is my dirty-little-habit. I started to play with airport codes and dates. Before long I had found a reasonably priced ticket to spend New Years Eve in Thailand. 

Though I hadn't planned it, it wasn't purely whimsy. I aim to be somewhere new for every New Years: it's always memorable. It's nice to mark the passing time by creating something in a new place. Meeting new friends, single-serving or not.

I excitedly commented about my off-the-cuff airfare purchase on Facebook, but quickly deleted the post when--at 3am--I woke up from some nightmare about finances and cancelled the ticket. 

The next morning, Roberto & Marianna, ever the adventurers, say: "we'll meet you in Thailand!" 


News reports of political unrest in Thailand. 

Roberto and Mari are going to the beaches. Too romantic for my taste. I don't want to be the segura vela (or "candle holder," a funnier way to say "third wheel") on New Years Eve. 

I've been curious about neighboring Myanmar (a.k.a. Burma) ever since some renegade I met on the road told me about his adventures there back when tourists weren't overly welcome. I developed a country crush as Bourdain bumped along in a rickety old train in the first episode of Parts Unknown

Why not? 

I started a Googling binge. This proved naïve: Myanmar is not well represented on the internet yet. I can't afford a tour (it's not my style anyway), but coordinating this thing solo took a month of dedicated focus and there are still a few hazy bits in the itinerary. There is only one hostel in the country. Only one airline offered online booking--zero buses or trains. 

As IndieTraveller Marek writes, "Backpacking in Myanmar is a little bit more challenging than other countries in Southeast Asia. It tends to attract somewhat more 'serious' travelers, and the party crowd from Thailand and Laos does not [come] here." It's true: according to the tourism board, Myanmar didn't break 1 million visitors until 2012. By comparison, Thailand received 22 million visitors the same year.

As you may have noticed, I am persistent. And what I couldn't manage to plan ahead will, theoretically, become that great, "It started when I slept in the train station at Thazi..." story. 

Tomorrow morning I depart: Mandalay, Kalaw, Bagan, Yangon, Bangkok and Tokyo. 

This is going to be brilliant. 

May you all be surrounded by brilliance in the year to come.